There are many things in my life that seem to cause me distress. But it’s not the things themselves that cause the distress – it’s my response to them that causes it. I think this is kind of like the Buddhist teaching that suffering is caused by our attachment to things. It’s not the thing itself that causes suffering, but our attachment to wanting things a different way. I want to practice radical acceptance, which means accepting reality for what it is. It doesn’t mean acceptance in the sense of approving of that reality, or passively living with it. Acceptance here means acknowledging reality for what it is, and not expending any energy on trying to pretend it’s different, or on getting angry or sad that it’s not different. It means accepting reality as reality, and then figuring out what the best response to that reality is.
In this post, I want to list some of the things I want to accept. I’m going to write these as declarative statements: instead of saying, “I want to learn to accept x, y, and z,” I’m going to write, “I accept x, y, and z.” I’m writing this way not because it’s true at this point – it most cases it certainly isn’t. But it’s what I am aspiring to. In writing it this way, I’m practicing “action leads to motivation,” a paradoxical truth that means that our actions can actually affect our beliefs, not just the other way around. I think it’s the truth behind the proverb, “Fake it till you make it,” and behind Jesus’ words, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So, some of the things I am aspiring to:
- I accept myself for who I am. I am a child of God. God loves me, and I love myself. I wish good things for myself, and will do what I can to keep myself safe from the slings and arrows of life.
- I accept that I am capable of great good. I have made a difference in the lives of many people. I have made people’s lives better, through my actions and my words. While my intentions are not perfect, more often than not, I am trying to do good.
- I accept that other people have also been hurt, offended, or upset through my words and actions. Sometimes, I have been at fault, through thoughtlessness or anger. Sometimes, I have not been at fault, and the other person took something I said or did in a negative way because of their own stuff. I can never know for sure which of these is which.
- I accept that I make mistakes, some of which cause pain. I do not expect perfection from myself, only that I keep trying, and keep learning from mistakes.
- I accept that I do not need to solve all the problems around me. I accept that I am not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. I am responsible for doing my best with what I have in each moment, nothing more. I accept that that sometimes doesn’t seem like enough.
- I accept that I will sometimes experience sadness and depression. This does not need to define me. I accept that I am not a “depressed person,” but rather am someone who lives with this particular illness. I accept that I can live with this feeling, and find effective ways to cope with it.
- I accept that I will sometimes experience anger. Sometimes people will be angry with me, and sometimes I will be angry with myself. I accept that while this is uncomfortable, I can live with it, without having to immediately fix the situation. I can find effective ways to cope with this anger, live with it as long as necessary, and respond appropriately to each situation without reacting too quickly.
- I accept that I will sometimes experience fear. I will face things that are uncertain, that are unknown. Even though this emotion will be uncomfortable, I accept that I can live with it, and find effective ways to cope with it. I do not have to immediately react to take away the discomfort.
- I accept that I will not do these things perfectly, and that I will make mistakes. When that happens, I can learn and grow from these mistakes. I do not need to punish myself for my flaws; my flaws are what makes me human.
- I accept that I will sometimes fail to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes I will fall into old habits. Again, I do not need to punish myself for this. With the help of others, I can stand up again, make amends if necessary, and move on.
- I accept that despite my flaws, I am loved by God, and that I can therefore love myself. I have begun routines where I can practice this love regularly.
This is not the direction I thought this was going to go when I started. I thought I was going to start with a few things about myself, and then move into some other areas of my life, some external things I want to learn to accept. But I think this is what I needed to write today. I will write again soon with a follow-up list of external things I accept.